Just what the US wants; anything to not talk about its bankrupt foreign policy:
The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has been arrested by London police on behalf of Swedish authorities on suspicion of rape.
The Metropolitan Police Extradition Unit confirmed at 10.30am London time (2030 AEDT) that the 39-year-old Australian had been arrested “by appointment” on a European Arrest Warrant an hour earlier.Advertisement: Story continues below
The Swedish warrant cites one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape – all allegedly committed in August this year.
The Australian-born human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson QC, has cut short his annual summer holiday in Sydney to represent Mr Assange.
Mr Robertson and another specialist extradition lawyer from his Doughty Street Chambers are to act for Mr Assange and appear in a magistrate’s court within 24 hours to argue for bail. A full hearing of the extradition case must be heard inside 28 days.
However, London legal sources warned that the type of European arrest warrant issued against Mr Assange over sexual assault claims in Sweden was extremely difficult to “avoid or challenge”. He and his lawyers planned to fight the extradition with every available resource because of growing fears that this case would allow for preparation for an immediate follow-up and handover to US authorities in the wake of the release of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables.
This website understands that Mr Robertson, whose Chambers are one of the few with specialist experience in extradition proceedings with Scandinavian nations, has been in contact with Mr Assange for some time about his defence and met with federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland last week about the case.
The surrender of Mr Assange is unfolding as his whistleblower’s website continued to battle a seemingly concerted global effort to combat further information release led by the US Attorney-General, Eric Holder.
Mr Holder said he had authorised “significant” actions aimed at prosecuting the WikiLeaks founder, but refused to specify what these might be.
“The lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk. The American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that I believe are arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way. We are doing everything that we can.”
Mr Assange is reported by The Guardian to be seeking supporters to put up surety and bail and has said he expected to have to raise between £100,000 and £200,000 – and six people offering surety – to stave off attempts to hold him in remand.
Mr Assange has reportedly told friends that he was increasingly convinced the US was behind Swedish prosecutors’ attempts to extradite him for questioning on the assault allegations.
He has previously said that the original allegations were the product of “personal issues” but that he now believed Sweden had behaved as “a cipher” for the US.
Mr Assange is wanted by Swedish detectives after two women claimed they were sexually assaulted by him when he visited the country last August. The Swedish supreme court upheld an order to detain him for questioning after he successfully appealed against two lower court rulings.
Mr Assange has also said that he declined to return to Sweden to face prosecutors because he feared he would not receive a fair trial and that prosecutors had requested that he be held in solitary confinement and incommunicado.
He has admitted that he was becoming exhausted by the battle to keep defending the allegations in Sweden while running the carefully managed release of the US cables at the same time.
A Swiss bank announced this week said that had shut down Mr Assange’s account because he had allegedly given “false information”, while the US-based commerce business PayPal has also frozen the WikiLeaks accounts, hindering the site’s ability to raise funds.
Assange has $61,000 (£38,000) in PayPal and $37,000 in the Swiss account, sources said.